27 December 2005

SDLP keeps up pressure over spying ring claims

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
27 December 2005

The SDLP today sought to maintain their focus on Sinn Fein over the 'Stormontgate' spy ring allegations as questions over the affair increased.

Deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said Sinn Fein claims that it had been "stitched up" when its Stormont head of administration Denis Donaldson was exposed as a British spy needed to be taken seriously.

"We are determined to get to the truth of what really happened," he said.

"That is why we have been asking certain key questions of Sinn Fein - and are looking for answers - so that we can decide if these allegations have any credibility."

The South Belfast MP said it was agreed a rucksack with a mound of documents was found in Mr Donaldson's house during the police raids which included Stormont more than three years ago.

"If there never was an IRA spy ring why did Sinn Fein not expel him immediately when these were found?

"Why did they wait three years before taking action?

"How can they expect us to believe they did not realise that he was an informer despite a huge pile of British documents being found in his house?" he asked.

"Or is the truth that there really was an IRA authorised spy ring? Is the truth that the IRA expected British documents to be in Denis Donaldson's house because he was part of that IRA spy ring but, unbeknown to them, had been working for the British?"

Secondly, Mr McDonnell went on, Sinn Fein activist Niall Binead was convicted last year of IRA membership in the Republic after being was found with personal details of three Irish politicians.

"Can Sinn Fein explain why their activist was following southern politicians? And given that the IRA was clearly spying in the South, are we really to believe that they would never do so in the North?"

His questions came as Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey warned an "increasingly seedy and murky" atmosphere is threatening any credibility the political process has left.

With both Stormontgate and the On the Runs controversy running into the New Year, Sir Reg said the collective task for politicians was to inject some integrity into political life.

And he warned against any attempt to "reheat" failed political deals including the two governments' aborted Comprehensive Package from a year ago.

At the end of the year in which Sir Reg took over the UU reins from David Trimble, he said Secretary of State Peter Hain had the "major responsibility" to restore a credibile political process.

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